Readers to this blog know that, here at the Library of Congress, we love a mystery—whether they are “solved” (“Sailor Moon”); “on-going” (all those photos), or, sadly, probably, futile (“Children of Loneliness”).
For decades, the hunt for so-called “lost media” has enthralled sleuths, both “amateur” and “professional.” (The holy grail for film: the Lon Chaney silent “London After Midnight” from 1927). Today, as with everything else, the internet has amplified and democratized this endeavor. Today, numerous websites list MIA media—TV, film, music, etc. The sites crowdsource the details and they have proven fruitful and successful as various determined souls gather the clues and then begin the search and often unearth some mislaid media.
Interestingly, though, some of those rarefied items believed to be among the absent are still very much around—and at the Library of Congress. Recently, the Library has been working with one (detailed, fascinating, addictive) website devoted to locating that which was feared lost…and we’ve found some of the productions they have been seeking.
A case in point: The 1991 made-for-TV movie “First Love, Fatal Love” told the true story of Kim Frey, a young college student who contracted the AIDS virus while away at college after engaging in unprotected sex with a classmate. The film starred Alexandra Auder (daughter of Warhol “superstar” Viva, sister of Gabby Hoffman) and Michael Lovell Farris and, in a cameo, the real-life Frey. The film also marked the debut of indie actress Parker Posey while also containing an early performance by Steve Zahn.
The HBO-produced film, initially aired on April 19, 1991, written by Bruce Harmon and directed by Helen Whitney, was never completely lost as it was, apparently, made available on home video/DVD in Australia at one time. Additionally, the film’s director had long held onto a personal copy of it. But, more broadly available for viewing in the USA? No.
Except….back in November of 1991, the Library of Congress did receive a copy of the film, a viewing copy, submitted as a copyright deposit. In other words, we have it, in full. And, if you like, you can come see it.
And there are other cases like this, too, where that which was once feared lost has, indeed, been found. For instance…
“True Detectives” was a 1990-1991 CBS reality show that aired on Friday nights. Not to be confused with the later cable series “True Detective,” this network series was hosted by Gregory Harrison and was similar in format to “Rescue 911” and “Unsolved Mysteries.” According to IMDB, the program was a “reality based TV series where real and amateur detectives present some of their toughest cases through dramatic re-enactments and interviews with actual eyewitnesses.” While some segments of the program are still undiscovered, the Library does contain the sought-after parts of episodes 5, 6 and 7.
Meanwhile, while maybe not a deeply-missed small screen classic, the 1978-1979 NBC action-adventure series “Sword of Justice” does have its followers, its fans and its seekers. For years, the Dack Rambo series has had its two-hour pilot/premiere available online, but that was it. But… the program’s first regular episode, “Aloha, Julia Lang,” is at the Library of Congress.
Similarly, the first episode of Joe Namath’s short-lived 1978 attempt at sitcom success, “The Waverly Wonders” has long been housed at the Library. And every episode of the 1991 FOX series “The Best of the Worst,” hosted by Greg Kinnear, are in the Culpeper archives of the Library of Congress as is the 1988 pilot film “Jake’s Journey.” “Jake” has long been sought after as it was written by Graham Chapman, David Sherlock, and Andy Schatzberg and featured in the cast, along with Chapman, Peter Cook. The show, originally pitched to CBS, concerned a modern-day teen who finds himself transported back to Medieval England. Directed by Hal Ashby, the film has been part of the Library’s collection since October of 1988.
While the use of the term “lost” in terms of “lost media” can vary from site to site, many ISO pages consider a work “found” only when it is available via download or via streaming. So, in that regard, due to copyright law, Library of Congress holdings might not apply. However, we’re taking good care of them, and all items are available for anyone–including you!–to view for free in the Library’s Moving Image Research Center in Washington, DC.
Meanwhile, as for that long ago or, perhaps, not so long ago, thing that you saw once and never found again, maybe the Library does have it. And there’s one way to find out….
Thank you to the Library’s own Dorinda Hartmann for her assistance with this article.
For more information related to this blog or any Library of Congress holdings, please see Ask a Librarian, and if you plan to come in to view or listen to any collection items, please reach out to our reference staff in the Moving Image Research Center and the Recorded Sound Research Center.